Bhopal:In what appears to be a concerted effort by anti-constitutional forces to intimidate and humiliate Christians in the run up to Christmas, the police have detained six Christians on the charge of trying to “forcibly” convert a Hindu man at Bhoomkhar village in Satna district, shortly after suspected Bajrang Dal activists attacked a carol-singing session there on Thursday night and burnt a car.
Officers unofficially acknowledged that Bajrang Dal activists had told them that priests from the village church had on Thursday morning tried to convert a local man, Dharmender Dohar.
Dohar, 23, kept changing his statements before journalists on Friday. He first said he had been “pressured” to convert but later alleged the Bajrang Dal had told him to make the allegation.
“If I reveal the truth, my family will get into trouble,” he told a news channel. He acknowledged having had a year’s stint in the Bajrang Dal.
Under Madhya Pradesh law, a would-be convert and the priest who would convert him have to provide 15 days’ notice to district authorities.
Local Christians said that representatives from a theological school in Satna town, 15km form the village, had come to lead the carol-singing session as part of pre-Christmas celebrations.
They alleged that Bajrang Dal activists attacked the gathering, beat up some of the priests, and torched the theological school’s car, and that the police had detained six of the carol singers from Satna.
Father M. Rony, a priest from the village church, told The Telegraph over the phone: “They (the police) took 32 priests to the police station for a probe in spite of our protests.”
In an effort to cover up the incident after widespread protests by the Christian community, the police have begun ‘denying’ the Thursday incident.
Sub-inspector Mohinee Sharma denied any priests had been detained or harassed. “We have registered a case against unidentified people who burnt the car,” she said.
“Nobody has been formally charged with or arrested for the alleged conversion.”
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said that several priests had been detained. It called the “conversion” charge frivolous and added: “The violence perpetrated by groups who claim to be ‘nationalists’ is disgraceful.”
It said the Church had been facing harassment in the state for the past few months.